Loving fear

.. the old saying “have no fears and no regrets” – to me it means one’s either dead or not yet born.

               No, it’s not going to be one of those texts you read in the newspapers. I’m not going to tell you crap and say it’s brilliance, no siree. I know fear, I’ve been feeling it for most of my life. That knot in the stomach, that feeling that makes one paralyzed – I know it in the biblical sense. Fear is not for the weak. Fear is not for the strong. Fear is fear. I’ve known fear when I was doing the right thing – would I hurt others, would they think I’m doing it on purpose? I’ve known fear when I was taking tests, it didn’t matter whether I passed or I failed – I feared the consequences of passing or failing. I felt fear when I knew nothing could come my way that I couldn’t deal with. I felt fear when I was sending out cv-s, but also when signing the employment contracts. I felt fear most of my life, one way or another, and I’m sure I’ll feel it again.

               I think fear is not to be feared, it’s not in any way a good or a bad feeling, it has no such attributes. Fear is a feeling and it makes the body react in ways you can predict. You can’t get rid of it. No, you really can’t. Nothing you, or I say or do can make it go away. You can let it pass you, you can make its effects less intrusive, you can learn from it – but you can’t kill it. It dies on its own. The only thing you should make sure of is to still be standing after it’s passed.

               As such, I won’t ever tell people to avoid fear or that they have nothing to fear. Even telling somebody something about a feeling they have might make that feeling bigger. It’s a sort of validation, if I say I’m afraid and you say I shouldn’t be afraid or that I have nothing to fear – you’re sort of saying that my fear exists, which is the last thing you should be doing. I might have doubts that my fear is imaginary but if you then say I shouldn’t be afraid you’re also saying I am afraid. And I won’t have those doubts any longer, I’ll be sure of it.

               I love fear – just not the way you might think. It’s an energy boost. I use it, I redirect it. For instance, fearing spiders might make one clean up his or her house. Fearing the unknown could be the difference between learning something or not learning something. You can use the energy of fear as a stepping stone to greatness. It’s like what all those aikido and jiu-jitsu martial arts instructors show you – they use the energy of the opponent to bolster their own power. They simply redirect attacks and let their opponent provide the power for their own defeat. You don’t let fear own you, you don’t let it change you, so take control of it. It is unavoidable but you shouldn’t let it dictate your behavior. You make it work for you, not against you.

               Think depression, for instance. All you have is fear, all you can think of is your misery. It fills every thought, it numbs you to the point of stillness. You don’t do anything because what’s the point, it’s going to get worse anyway. Well, mon ami, use math then, probability. Doing nothing about it because it’s pointless is not the same as doing something about it even if it’s pointless – it’s exactly the thing you need to understand. It’s cause and effect – if you don’t do anything then things won’t change, that’s certain. Not standing on those last two feet you got under your arse means certain failure to get up. Standing on them means certain failure is not certain anymore, even if it feels like 99% certain. But you got a 1% probability of things improving. The thing you want is to improve your odds. Nothing is certain but death and taxes. So doing nothing, wallowing in self-pity and remorse only removes the possibility of things improving. Doing nothing to improve your condition only makes happiness impossible and misery certain. Same thing if you’re trying to lose weight or learn a new skill – giving up won’t make things better, it eliminates the possibility of them becoming better. It lowers your chance of success. It’s a barrier you place yourself between the person you are now and the person you want to become.

               It’s like the story of Joe and the winning lottery ticket – he’d been praying all his life for winning the big one and after about 60 years of prayer the clouds part, the sky turns bright and he hears a booming voice – the voice of god, saying:

               – Joe dear, I know you’ve been praying for winning the big prize for more than half a century and I’d love to help because you’re a good man and everything but please, do us both a favor, stop praying and bloody buy a bloody ticket for the bloody lottery!

               God will help those who help themselves, you know. Figuratively speaking, of course – I believe in god just like I believe in luck, as in “yea, right, about that..”. Yes, you can have too much fear, you can feel like you’ve lost control. There are ways around it, too. I know, I’ve been there. But I found I wasn’t helpless. I’ve found many things are just in my head. I can’t get rid of it all, but I can reduce it to a more manageable size. All it takes is a bit of work, of focus on what I can control. I can’t be somebody who doesn’t feel fear at all, but I can be somebody who fears a lot less things. What I can do is remove the sources of fear that are manageable and predictable, like superstition and self-doubt and so on. I can learn new tricks to improve my skills, I can learnabout how the world works, I can work to improve my willpower, steel my resolve, stuff like that. The rest of them sources of fear, the unpredictable ones, those come anyway regardless of what I do or don’t do and, like the common cold, they die on their own after a while (which in the cold case is usually seven days with medicine and a week without). In the end, success means still standing, still kicking, after the storm passes.

               Everybody feels fear. The most common fear is of failure – actually it’s fearing the shame brought by failure. It’s also the easiest one to turn into success. Failing something doesn’t mean I’m a failure – it just means I’ve failed something, but I can win at something else. There is no winner or loser, there’s no identity in it unless you think it is. Failure is impersonal, just like success. Think about it for a second. If you are part of a group of people with the same interests or the same goals and you fear failing to achieve those goals, use the logical approach to turn that fear into success. Divide the road to those goals into smaller segments, into smaller “to do” bullet points, each marking a smaller goal on the road to the finish line. Now put that sheet of paper in front of you and think – out of the 100% of the group, a few won’t reach bullet point number one. Because they are afraid to try. From the smaller group remaining, a few of them reach goal number two, because they also feel fear. And so on, all the way to the finish line.

               Research suggests that 81% of individuals can’t follow a plan for more than 2 years. Which means that you can get in the top 20% simply by not giving up. Why? Most won’t reach their goals, not because they’re dumber than you – but because they stopped trying, because they let their own fears dictate the choices they make. Or they gave up because it was the easiest thing to do, perhaps they were pressured, or perhaps not. It doesn’t matter what was the reason, actually. They let their fear or whatever push them to the ground but didn’t get up afterwards. Persistence and patience prevailed. Imagine that. Intellect can’t get you to the finish line, hard work can’t get you to the finish line – refusing to give up is what matters when it comes to reaching your target. Of course, reaching first place or fifth place is where intellect and sweat really shine – but the important part, the part where you actually finish your race – that’s the job for persistence. Go read that study, it also shows what are the biggest culprits for giving up over a period of 2 years – with lack of willpower, self-blame and wishful thinking pounding people to the ground before they reach three months into the plan. Here’s one more thing that’s going to blow your mind – that research was made on people who actually had a goal. This here page (I can’t be bothered to research more, seems legit) shows 80% of the people never set goals for themselves. Mind is blown, collect brains. Profit.

               In today’s world, the multitude of choices and the sea of contradictory information we’re drowning in can be used to our advantage. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember you’re not alone. Others feel the same way. Hell, the vast majority feels the same way you feel. They just might have different problems than you. In today’s world, the one-eyed can rules the blind, provided he doesn’t give up or starts believing he’s also blind. Stop worrying about what others think of you, there’s so much information and so much stimulus battering at the doors of our collective synaptic transmission self-appointed prison it’s highly unlikely others even know you exist as anything else than a provider of cash and sweat. They’re too busy surviving in this ocean of problems, just like you. So ignore them and just about half of your fears will go poof!. And just keep going forward. Then blame your peace of mind on aliens, god’s touch or reptilian rulers, they’s like rather popular explanations these days.

Post scriptum:

               You can feel happy when you’ve failed something, just like you can feel fear or maybe unhappy when you’re succesfull. You can fail something after succeeding at something else. You can succeed at something after failing something else. You can shut yourself in a room with no windows and no electricity and believe there’s no sun or you can open the door and look for a way out. Success and happiness aren’t genetic or environmental – you can be in a big building that has many rooms with no windows or you can be one door away from the outside world. If you don’t open the door, you’re stuck. You can find a room with a window but it’s night and you see no light shining outside – that doesn’t mean there is no sun or that there is no way to leave the building. You don’t want to be in one of the rooms during the day, you want to be outside. You can try combing your hair, washing your hands, dancing or singing – none of that matters unless you start opening doors to find the one leading out. Now think about living in a building inside a building inside a building inside a multitude of buildings. Horrifying thought, isn’t it?

               What people don’t understand, what they’ve learned and can’t unlearn is that fear, success, happiness – they’re all temporary. The happy success takes dedication, perseverence and alot of work just for the chance to exist and for the ones worth having, the only way to make them stick requires the work in progress to be never ending. Continuous nirvana requires continuous effort. Just like marriage.

               Never ever give up. Ever. Adapt, avoid, redirect and use your fears to kill your other fears but also always stand up after the storm passes. It doesn’t matter if you’re afraid, we all are – what actually matters is how you deal with fear while you keep going forward. It’s your life, so take control of it. That’s the stuff actual courage is made of. Success doesn’t come from the absence of fear, it comes from not giving up in spite of that fear, when those around you capitulate because of it. Don’t give up. Even if you fail, stand up, dust off and try again from a different angle. That’s how winning is done. Pick something, be it weight loss, money making, learning one or more skills, or whatever else, plan how you’re going to achieve it then just start and keep at it. It may take you years, but think how few are actually able to go the distance – that’s why hard work has so little appeal to people. You’ve got here an actual, realistic, proven (now I sound like I’m selling you something, damn!) way of out-performing even those smarter, wealthier or better looking than you. Life is too damn short and success is too damn uncertain to leave to chance alone – so what are you going to do about it?


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